23 December 2009

Of Meek Words

One hindrance when writing about the state from the libertarian point of view in English is that words having to do with the state are just not sinister enough. Lets take a closer look.

First the word government. Such a meek word. One can govern the people, but one can also govern his ranch. So the word means to rule but can also mean, to administer. Well it is much harder to rile up against administrators than it is to rile up about rulers. There is no such lack of clarity in Slovene. The word for the government is vlada, stems from vladati, to rule. With vladar being ruler. No other meaning to it. Much more menacing. Much easier to hate.

Lets take authority. It can mean coercive political power, but one can also be an authority on cocker spaniel breeding. There is no such confusion in Slovene. Authority in the political sense is oblast. Oblastnik or one who wields political power is another word for a despot. There is no oblastnik on cocker spaniels. Furthermore it is a word that shares the root -last with the word for property, lastnina, implying that all those under the oblast are akin to property. Much better, a term simply inviting you to hate it!

Then there is the state, a neutral term, albeit one that is also neutral in Slovene. Država, comes from drža or stance. Nothing sinister about it. However we can look for help in Russian, a different language from the Slavonic branch, where the state is gosudarstvo. Gosudar being master or lord. No pretence of harmlessness here. Marvellous!

The next word to take issue with, albeit for different reasons, is the noun rules. How terrible that a word like that should share a root with ruler. It can mislead into believing that rules come from rulers. In Slovene rules are pravila coming from -prav or that which is right. Incidentally also the root for pravda and pravice, justice and rights respectively.

On a similar note, the word anarchy in English can mean absence of rulers but it can also mean lawlessness. The native Slovene terms for anarchy have this kept apart. Absence of rulers is brezvladje, absence of laws brezzakonje.

Apaprently whatever else has, being at the forefront of liberal thought and having Rights of Englishmen done for the Anglo-Saxons, it has apparently made a great mess of their language, making it a bummer to argue against political authority in it.

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